Confession time: I haven’t read many writing guides. For someone who does as much writing as I do, you would have thought that I might have tried to improve my craft, right? But I am generally allergic to self-help books, and I have the distinct impression that more people are making money from teaching writing than are making money from writing. I mean, teaching writing is a job. Being a writer is something that people tend to do in their spare time.
Publishing, it is a crazy business.
However, Gareth Powell is a mate. And the folks at Luna Press are good pals too. So I definitely wanted to pick up a copy of this book at Worldcon. And of course I am glad that I did.
About Writing is a very short book. It is by no means a detailed instruction manual for being a writer. If you want detail I warmly recommend Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose. Powell’s book is as much a book about being a writer as it is about writing. There are, after all, a lot of people who want to be writers. There’s a reason why Powell subtitled the book, A Field Guide for Aspiring Authors. There’s a whole lot of aspiring going on out there, probably not enough doing, and certainly not enough submitting.
For some time now Powell has been using his Twitter feed to dispense help and encouragement to fellow writers. This book is essentially a collection of the sort of thing he says in those discussions. It has a bunch of practical tips to get you going, and more tips to help turn your great ideas into something that works. Powell shares a lot of his own techniques, but he’s also wise enough to understand that what works for him isn’t going to work for everyone. The focus is not on telling you how to write, but on helping you find a writing technique that works for you.
The book covers the entire lifecycle of writing, all the way from “where do you get your ideas from?” to getting an agent, getting published, and promoting your book. It includes some sage advice on how to deal with the anxiety that can result from this very solitary occupation, and on how not to be an arse on social media.
In short, this is a great little book. It probably won’t contain a huge amount new for people already started on their careers (though some successful writers could certainly have done with learning about the pitfalls of social media). It will, however, be a great source of ideas and comfort to people who are just setting out on what they hope will be a career. And when you have read it, you should follow Powell on Twitter. There’s lots more that you can learn from him there.